My due date of April 19th came and went without any sign that labor was in the near future. On my last doctor’s appointment on the 18th, the midwife confirmed that we were still looking at an induction date of April 28th if nothing happened before then. She gave me some advice on how to start labor naturally like drinking red raspberry leaf tea, using evening primrose oil, and walking. I was already 2-3 cm dilated at that point and she said my body would be more favorable for an induction if I could get to 4 cm on my own. I went ahead and scheduled the next appointment before the tentative induction for the biophysical profile on April 26th. The midwife said she doubted I’d make it to then without going into labor, but I still had my doubts. I was absolutely certain that I would have to be induced.
Before hopping into bed on Tuesday night, the 23rd, I said to Ralph “I think it’s going to be a long night.” I hadn’t felt well all day, mostly cramping and extremely fatigued. I had cramping off and on for a few weeks before and had heard that cramping could lead up to contractions. At 11:45 Tuesday night, I woke up to the most intense contraction and ran to the bathroom. The contraction finally subsided and I got back in bed when about an hour later I felt another contraction coming. The pain would start in my back then wrap around to my front lower abdomen. Pretty painful but in the back of my mind, I thought “I’ve read stories where contractions like this taper off and it’s just false labor…” Another hour goes by and I get another strong contraction. I decide it’s time to start timing them using my handy dandy contraction app on my phone. Sure enough, contractions are now coming in spurts of 10 minutes averaging about a minute long. Now I’m beginning to feel the start of “back labor.” To say having back labor is similar to a bad backache is no comparison. This back pain was excruciating! No longer were the contractions wrapping around to my front, it was all concentrated in my lower back. UGH! After several contractions, I decided to wake Ralph up around 2:00 am and said to him, “I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been having contractions for the past couple of hours… you might not want to go into work today.” I think that woke him up for good!
I timed the contractions for another few hours, which were gradually getting closer and closer together lasting about a minute long. I was back and forth to the bathroom with each contraction, finally vomiting up my dinner from the night before. I knew then this was turning into the real thing! Not nearly sleeping a wink that night, I decided it was time to call my OB/GYN office when the contractions were getting 6 painful minutes apart at 6:30 am. The doctors recently moved to a different office building the previous week so when I called the main number, I got a recorded message to call a different number. I call that number and get another recorded message to call another number. Panic starts to set in as I begin to worry how I’m going to reach my doctor to tell them I’m in labor! Finally I hang on the line to one of the recorded messages and end up reaching the on call nurse. After a few questions about the pregnancy, she asks for my date of birth. I tell her April 24th… She laughed and wished me a happy birthday and said she would leave a message for the doctor on call. Not 5 minutes later, I receive a phone call back from the doctor and after describing my symptoms he tells me to go ahead to the hospital and he’ll be there shortly.
The doctor on call was not my main doctor I had seen throughout my pregnancy and I was so hoping to have the midwife at my OB/GYN office deliver me. After packing the car and Ralph deciding he wanted to take a shower before leaving (!!) I noticed my contractions were slowly starting to space out. Driving to the hospital in rush hour morning traffic, I only had about 4 contractions from the time we left the house and arrived to the hospital. We finally get checked in and into a room while the nurse starts hooking me up to the monitors and confirmed I was already about 3-4 cm dilated and about 90% effaced. At about 8:30 am, I received a voicemail from the midwife. She didn’t know whether I was at the hospital yet and if I wasn’t, if I wanted to come into the office to get checked out first. I immediately called her back and told her I was already admitted at the hospital. She said she would come on over at lunchtime to check me out. WHEW!! I was so excited there was a huge possibility she would now deliver me! I asked the nurse what other pain management options I had aside from the epidural and she told me she could give me some pain relief through an IV that would only last about an hour. The IV was put in with a hep-lock so I would still be mobile. I will admit – getting the IV hurt REALLY bad! I decided to hold off on the pain medicine for a little bit and try and get things progressing naturally. Ralph and I walked through the hallways thought the morning hoping to help speed things along. Every now and then I would get another strong contraction but they were definitely slowing down unlike what I was experiencing earlier that morning. I finally decided to get the pain medicine though the IV… I also had every intention of getting an epidural but I have a confession – getting the epidural was one of the things I was dreading the most during labor. Sticking something in between your vertebrae and having to remain motionless was freaking me out!
An important side note to interject here – I was EXTREMELY emotional and hormonal throughout the entire day. It could have been the combination of the lack of sleep and the intense lower back pain, the thought that this baby was coming today whether I was ready or not, and that my and Ralph’s lives were about to be changed completely. Anytime the labor and delivery nurse would ask how I was doing or if Ralph asked if I needed anything, I would start bawling or at the very least, tearing up. I was a mess!
Around lunchtime, my midwife came in and checked me out. I was already at 5 cm by then and our plan was to get the epidural whenever I wanted it, and that she would call back in a few hours to check on my status. She confirmed that the baby was OP (occiput posterior) which means the back of his skull was against my tailbone rather than his face which results in a baby being born “sunny side up.” Laboring when the baby is in this position is extremely uncomfortable and painful for the mom, resulting in “back labor.” The midwife said we could try a few different things to try and get the baby turned around before delivering and sometimes the baby would just turn naturally beforehand. I was hoping for the latter! My midwife also confirmed that my water had already broken and asked if I had felt a gush of fluid earlier. I told her I never even felt my water break or noticed anything odd since I came to the hospital. It surely couldn’t have broken at home beforehand – so how and when it broke remains a mystery! About 2:00pm, I went ahead and faced my fears and got the epidural before the pain got to be too much for me to handle. The nurses made Ralph sit to the side in front of me and he said when he saw the needle for the epidural, he was scared for me since he knows what happens when I see looooong needles like that! The epidural man was very efficient in administering it and explained everything that he was doing and what I would feel. After getting it, the epidural was almost nearly painless compared to the IV I got earlier! I could feel the numbing beginning in my left leg and the midwife and nurses had decided to try and prop one of my legs up in the leg holder on the bed while laying on my side to hopefully get the baby to turn on its own. By this time, I’m exhausted and haven’t eaten anything except a banana on the way to the hospital. I was only allowed ice chips. I tried to get some rest and got to nap for about 30-45 minutes. The epidural was heaven. I could see the contractions on the monitor but couldn’t feel anything.
As the afternoon went on, I was ready to get the show on the road and have this baby so I could at least eat a decent dinner for my birthday. The midwife came back to the hospital around 4pm and tried rolling me on my side nearly on my belly (while my leg was still suspended in the air!) during each contraction to see if it would help the baby turn. After another cervix check, I was about 8 cm. The midwife confirmed that the baby was “right there” and she could already feel the hair on his head! I still had a little ways to go before I was ready to push and the midwife said she would come back and check on me after dinner. Before she left, she pumped up the pitocin in hopes of getting me to 10 cm as quickly as possible. My memory is pretty foggy on what exactly happened during the next few hours but I remember going from not feeling any painful contractions to feeling the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. Ralph, being the good husband he is, tried massaging my lower back as each contraction came at what felt like every 30 seconds. I was SO ready to get this baby out of me!
When the midwife returned at 8:00 pm, her cell phone rang and she told me that the main doctor at the practice, Dr. A, was at the hospital for a meeting and was calling her back. The midwife said she was going to try to get Dr. A to come check me out to give her opinion on my status. It was possible that Dr. A could manually turn the baby if I was far enough dilated. But first she wanted me to do a few practice pushes to see if the baby would move during the birth canal. No such luck – the midwife said he wasn’t descending as I pushed. Dr. A comes into my room a few moments later and checks me out saying that the baby is still OP. With me still hanging onto 8 cm, there was no way to turn him. She told me I basically had two options: I could try and labor for a little longer hoping things would progress, but it was a high likelihood that I could be in labor for 5 more hours and have no change, only to end up more exhausted with the need of interventions, or I could opt for a c-section and get the baby out within the next 30 minutes. She left the room so Ralph and I could discuss what we wanted to do and that’s when I lost it. After nearly 21 hours of labor, having a c-section had not even crossed my mind. Throughout the latter part of my pregnancy, this baby was so low and in the right position for everything to happen naturally I assumed a c-section would totally be out of the question. At 8:55 pm, Dr. A walked back in the room and I told her sobbing that we’d like go ahead with the c-section. She assured me that this was the best choice for the baby and me. The midwife also confirmed that by having Dr. A do the c-section, I would have the tiniest, most perfect incision and Dr. A was the best at surgery. Everything that happened next was a blur. Within 5 minutes, the anesthesiologist was called in to prep me, Ralph was handed his scrubs, and I was given the numbing drugs for the surgery.
The journey to the operating room seemed to take 20 minutes, I only remember being wheeled through endless corridors then looking back and seeing Ralph in his scrubs head to another hallway to drop off our labor bags. The anesthesiologist (who was one of the nicest men I’ve met!) was at my head the entire time throughout the surgery and I remember shaking uncontrollably due to the medicine. I’m also crying at this point (AGAIN – crazy hormones) and then I see Ralph come over and sit beside me. Having a c-section is the weirdest feeling, you are still conscious and know you are being cut open but can only feel tons of pressure in your abdomen. I do remember Dr. A saying that the baby didn’t want to come out and his head was deep in the birth canal. The anesthesiologist told Ralph if he wanted to peek over the sheet to watch his son being born and Ralph took up the offer! Why he’d want to watch, I’ll never know. Finally after more tugging and pulling, baby Everett Rafael was born at 9:33 pm weighing 8.1 lbs, 21 inches long. I heard him cry as they took him over to be cleaned up but hadn’t had a chance to see him yet. Ralph left my side to go take photos and meet his new son. The nurses finally brought Everett over to me and I couldn’t believe that we had finally become a family of three.
More tears came (for the 546th time that day) and Dr. A worked on putting me back together while Everett got a more thorough scrubbing. I remember feeling so nauseous as my organs were being moved around and I told the anesthesiologist that I needed to throw up. Vomiting is the last thing I can recall before I remember coming to in the recovery room. I got to nurse Everett for a few minutes and then he was handed to Ralph. One of the first things I remember after really meeting Everett was that I couldn’t believe the amount of hair on my baby’s head! Neither Ralph nor I were born with as much hair as this child has. The nurse who was attending to me in the recovery room said I was running a fever so she was working on trying to stabilize my temperature before I could be released to the postpartum room, worried that I might have developed an infection. She brought me some ice chips, my birthday dinner, to help lower my temperature and slowly my temperature came down. Shortly before 1am, we were finally moved to a postpartum room. The nurses asked Ralph if he could carry the bags of our stuff while the two nurses pushed my bed through the hospital. We start the trek to our room and get down the first hallway when Ralph asks one of the nurses who is bringing the baby to the room. The nurse turns around and says “The BABY!! You’re supposed to bring him!” I wanted to laugh so hard but my incision was already beginning to hurt. We hadn’t even left the recovery ward and we’ve already forgotten the baby!
It was another night of little sleep and so surreal that we now had a little baby to take care of. I remember Everett waking up multiple times during the night and trying to feed him – but quickly learned that breastfeeding is a skill to be learned by both baby AND mom! It was already over 24 hours with no sleep for both Ralph and I so I asked one of the nurses if they would take Everett to the nursery for just a few hours so Ralph and I could get some uninterrupted sleep. During my pregnancy, I had always questioned those moms who would send their kids to the nursery after just having met their babies. But having a couple of hours of precious sleep I knew would do me (and everyone else!) some good after such an emotional day.
The first couple of days at the hospital were pretty rough recovery-wise but thankfully I had some great pain medication that helped tremendously. Ralph was also a huge help in doing everything from helping me out of bed to going home in the wee morning hours and doing laundry and walking the dogs, to jumping up to soothe Everett every time he cried during the night. I bought the “Happiest Baby on the Block” DVD for Ralph to watch before the birth and Ralph quickly picked up the talent of swaddling and soosh-ing during our 4 days at the hospital. The nurses and staff at the hospital were all fantastic! Breastfeeding was, and still is, a challenge but the lactation consultants (LC) at the hospital came in twice to see me and offered super helpful advice. I loved that the LC’s were very into making Ralph help with the breastfeeding, more so showing him how to make me comfortable before feeding and demonstrating how the baby is supposed to latch. As I tried to nurse on my own during the first few days, Ralph could see how extremely frustrating it was to me when Everett would not latch on correctly. Beforehand Ralph assumed the baby came out of the womb knowing how to nurse. I think he finally realized how much work breastfeeding really is! Ralph has been so hands on helping with anything Everett or I need, it’s been amazing to watch him be a great father. Little Everett is a very lucky guy to have such a wonderful dad.
Overall, my pregnancy was thankfully uneventful, and fairly easy. After my experience with labor and delivery the pain that I remember feeling is slowly fading from my memory each day. I’m so thankful that I had such dedicated doctors who came in and helped deliver me on their days off. I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the care and attention I received if it had not been for those two wonderful ladies. It all wasn’t as bad I as thought it would be and there is no doubt in my mind that I would do it all over again in a heartbeat when I look at Everett’s perfect little face. It’s true what moms say, the pain is totally worth it in the end. And I think I’m pretty lucky too to share my birthday with this new little man in my life. Though when he’s older, don’t think I won’t remind him every year how I spent my birthday in labor for him… 😉 But for now, I’m enjoying being a new mom and getting used to our new life as a family of three.